USDA Shake-Up, Trump Budget Could Be the Demise of the Office of Rural Development
Dan Nosowitz shares news of changes at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) likely to impact federal support for rural communities.
Nosowitz reports that USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue recently abolished the position of Under Secretary of Rural Development—a position that oversees the Office of Rural Development and its $216 billion budget.
In the place of the Under Secretary of Rural Development, the "heads of four departments within the Rural Development agency—the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Business Service, the Rural Housing Service, and the Chief Risk Office—will report directly to [the USDA Secretary]," according to Nosowitz.
The USDA called this reorganization an elevation of rural development, but the advocacy group Campaign for Renewed Rural Development has written a letter to members of Congress [pdf] stating their strong opposition to the reorganization. Here's a summary of the main arguments od that letter's opposition to the reorganization:
- "In its current position as a core USDA Mission Area overseen by an Under Secretary, RD is part of the USDA subcabinet; the reassignment would remove it from the subcabinet and rescind the decision-making power that comes with being a core USDA Mission Area."
- "Under Secretaries are confirmed by the U.S. Senate and held directly accountable to Congress for their office, scope and mission – special assistants are not."
- "Demoting RD and removing Congressional accountability will have a direct impact on our nation’s ability to care for the underserved and compete in a global market."
The letter also raises alarms about possible policy and budget developments that could further impact rural communities: "President Trump’s 'skinny budget' proposal to Congress included the elimination of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, the entire portfolio of Rural Business Cooperative Service programs and the Rural Water Wastewater Program."